I’ve been on a run of really good books lately. A Darker Shade of Magic did not disappoint.
In fact I absolutely adored this book. When I finished A Darker Shade of Magic I was like one of those minions from Despicable Me.
I automatically took to google to find out that YES there was a sequel and yes I would have to wait a year to read it. But did I care? No. Because this book was amazing. I haven’t been this excited about a new series since last year when I read Queen of the Tearling.
A Darker Shade of Magic is a science fiction and fantasy hybrid. There are multiple parallel worlds, each with a different quantity of magic. A long time ago the borders between the worlds were more lax and people could travel between them, but after the fall of Black London the worlds were sealed off from one another. Only special mages, called Antari are able to travel between worlds.
The two main characters in the novel are Kell and Lila. Kell is our Antari blood mage. He doesn’t know much about his past. He was raised by the King and Queen as a second son. Even though his family loves him, Kell carries some distain for them, he still sees himself as an outsider to their tight circle. Even if the royal family treats him as a second son he is still a trinket to be possessed. He carries a bit of a self pity torch for himself it’s not unfounded, but it never gets out of hand.
Lila was my favourite character. She’s a thief from Grey London who’s life dream is to be a pirate. She’s self sufficient and doesn’t like owing anyone any favours. What I loved the most about her was how she was never one to back down from a challenge. Even when she finds herself surrounded by others who are more powerful than her, she’ll take chances to do what was right. Lila and Kell were good matches for one another, and made a great team. When they finally meet, it’s not love at first sight, there is a connection but there is no time to explore it. There is a possiblity that it might be something looked at in the later novels.
The novel does set up many little plot threads for the next book, but at the same time the ending is satisfying enough that it could have been a stand alone. I for one would really like to learn more about both our characters pasts. Who was Kell before he was picked up by the royal family? Why did Lila lose an eye? (Honestly I have a theory here, but no point in getting into that). There is a lot to work with to continue this series, and many different places that we did not get to see.
But what really sold this book to me was the villains and White London. White London is the most brutal place, where the monarchy is constantly shifting. They have an attitude to their thrown similar to the Necromongers in Chronicles of Riddick.
White London is ruled by Astrid and Athos Dane, a creepy set of twins each with their own abilities. They have the Antari Holland in their service. When the previous king died Holland almost won the throne but lost out to the Danes. He has suffered because of it.
White London was the most interesting to me. Kell dubbed it White London because it appeared that all the colour had been leached out of it. It’s a harsh world that was closest to Black London before the walls went up. Each of the Londons have different relationships with magic. White London’s take on magic was similar to its take on the throne. Kell explains:
Here, magic was not seen as equal. It was seen as something to beconquered. Enslaved. Controlled. Black London had let magic in, let it take over, let it consume. In the wake of the city’s fall, White London had taken the opposite approach, seeking to bind power in any way they could. Power in Balance became Power in Dominance.
As much as I loved this book, it wasn’t without it’s flaws. The ending felt a little bit rushed, with everything being resolved almost too perfectly. Lila’s hero’s quest was almost too on point as she moved from selfish to selfless. Some side plots are dropped all together.
I loved it though, it was well paced, the characters were fun and I loved the world. Now I just need to wait till the next book comes out.
At least A Gathering of Shadow’s cover is really pretty and can hold me over for a while: